Grading Individual Observations of Practice in Child Welfare Contexts: A New Assessment Approach in Social Work Education


Students in the Frontline social work qualifying program undertake seven graded observations of practice in child welfare contexts during their qualifying studies. Before the Frontline program, educators had not attempted to implement graded observations of practice in a qualifying program in the United Kingdom. In this paper, we seek to show how graded practice observations have been undertaken in the Frontline program and provide information about the research base informing its development. A summary of findings from three preliminary research studies are presented. We suggest it is possible to grade practice consistently in child-welfare social work. However, we found considerable variation in marks awarded and evidence of grade inflation in all three studies. Using an interpretive lens, we argue that differences between graders should be anticipated because this is a complex assessment task requiring context-dependent judgment. We recommend developing a “consensus discussion” approach to moderation to improve reliability of grading practices, in which graders are encouraged to make the reasoning behind their grading decisions explicit.

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With thanks to Professor Donald Forrester for his original research in this area, which has provided the foundation on which the grading of individual observations in child welfare contexts is built.

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Correspondence to Alison Domakin.

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Domakin, A. Grading Individual Observations of Practice in Child Welfare Contexts: A New Assessment Approach in Social Work Education. Clin Soc Work J 47, 103–112 (2019) doi:10.1007/s10615-018-0691-4

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  • Grading practice
  • Observations of practice
  • Social work education
  • Assessment
  • Child welfare social work